What do a musician, nurse, basketball player and scientist have in common? More than you might think, when they’re all members of the Carpenter family, which wouldn’t even exist without Shenandoah University.
After participating in an advanced admission program her junior year of high school, Susan Cusick-Carpenter (AS ’82, HP ’84) knew she wanted to attend Shenandoah University. Susan received her Bachelor of Science in psychology in 1982, but decided to stay for an additional two years to complete a degree in nursing. It was during these two additional years, that Susan met her future husband.
Jeffrey Carpenter (C ’86) met Susan during his freshman year of college while studying jazz. Jeff remembers, “I ran out of money halfway through my freshman year and I needed a job. So I applied to the cafeteria and she was one of the student managers.” Susan hired Jeff to work in the dish room and as they say, “the rest is history.”
When the New York couple’s children, Matthew Carpenter (AS ’12, B ’13) and Evan Carpenter (AS ’16), began to look at colleges, Susan and Jeff did not anticipate they would choose to follow in their footsteps. In fact, Matthew always said that he would never go to Shenandoah, simply because his parents went there. However, after visiting the university and meeting the basketball coach and some of the players, Matthew changed his mind, with the ability to play Shenandoah basketball being a deciding factor. Shenandoah ended up being the only school Matthew applied to, and he graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and in 2013 with a Master of Business Administration.
Evan, the most recent Carpenter alumnus, graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in biology. Looking back on his college decision process, Evan remembers, “My parents were an influencing factor to a certain degree, but not as much as you might expect. They were the ones who introduced me to the school and the town, but outside of that, they never seemed to push me towards Shenandoah in any way. It appeared as if they only wanted to show me as many options as possible, and then sit back and allow me to make the decision myself.”
Returning to campus as parents has been a unique experience for Susan and Jeff. “It has been great coming back to SU these past years as a parent. I can’t believe how much the school and town have changed.” In particular, Susan noticed how green the campus has become. “They have made [campus] so pretty. [Shenandoah] looks really nice and like a real university…it is like someone has turned the lights on.”
One of Susan’s best memories of being back on campus was moving Evan into his resident hall freshman year. During the move-in, “[President] Tracy Fitzsimmons stopped by Evan’s room in Gore and remembered him as Matt’s little brother.”
Jeff describes each of his family members’ experiences at Shenandoah as different. “It has been fun, because each time we come back, we have our own memories of when we were students. But they (Matthew and Evan) are building their own and we get to continue building on our own at the same time.” Shenandoah is like an “anchor” that connects the whole family to the same place.
“I think the best thing about us all being Shenandoah alumni is that it gives us a common place that we can get together and reconnect,” said Matthew. “Both my parents and I have our own personal and professional lives, and my brother is about to jump headfirst into his career. Regardless of whatever state we live in, it gives us a common place to visit, for say homecoming or Apple Blossom. Having that common place where we can all converge will be very nice as we get a bit older.”
Shenandoah also encourages positive personal growth, according to Susan. “Jeff and I have told other prospective parents that we feel that Shenandoah University and Winchester are a great place to learn to be an adult. It’s a small school, but there is so much individual attention given to each student. It’s also a small town, but not too small, and it has everything anyone could need or want. It’s a great place to learn to be a responsible adult without feeling overwhelmed.”
So what do a musician, a nurse, a basketball player and a scientist have in common? As it would turn out, they share an awful lot in common.